First published in Hebrew in 2000, Israel Yuval’s book has proven to be highly controversial. He seeks to turn upside down many long-standing views of Christian polemics, and of the absence of Jewish responses. Instead, Yuval argues that often in the Middle Ages Jewish ritual declarations and arguments included veiled answers to Christian assertions and aggressive actions. These are qualified, to be sure, by the suffering of the minority player, sometimes of course suffering to the point of massacre. Nevertheless, the standard view has been that polemic toward Christianity was largely absent in Talmudic and medieval Judaism. According to Yuval, the rejection of Christianity is often evident in the literature. He finds ancient Jewish Passover rituals that included polemical responses; Christian accusations of Jewish ritual murder of Christian children that followed after the events of the Rhineland killing of their own Jewish children in 1096 (although designed to thwart the Crusaders’ arrival to kill or convert); and messianic expectations of the 13th century that were juxtaposed with declarations of judgment on Christians. Counter-narratives ran both ways, according to Yuval, and thus figured in the development of both religions. Index.
Mark D. Nanos, Ph.D., University of Kansas, is the author of Mysteryof Romans, winner of the 1996 National Jewish Book Award, Charles H. RevsonAward in Jewish-Christian Relations.